26 Nov What does it mean if your tongue is white?
Does your tongue have a white appearance? A white-colored tongue could be the result of poor oral hygiene or a fungal infection. In rare cases, the appearance of a white tongue could be a symptom of oral cancer. If you notice changes in the appearance or texture of soft oral tissue, be sure to discuss these symptoms with your dentist.
Causes Of A White-Colored Tongue
The most common culprit behind the appearance of a white tongue is poor oral hygiene. Plaque and bacteria can collect along the papillae of the tongue and produce a white color.
If a white tongue is caused by improper oral hygiene, patients can mitigate their symptoms by improving their brushing and flossing. It’s important to clean the tongue thoroughly. This can be done by gently brushing its surfaces when you brush your teeth or by investing in a tongue scraper. Our practice is happy to help with product recommendations and oral hygiene education.
Other circumstances can inflame and discolor the tongue’s papillae, too. Dry mouth and dehydration can cause the papillae to appear white along with:
- Tobacco use
- Frequently drinking alcohol
- Mouth breathing
- Irritation from dental appliances or sharp teeth
Beyond discoloration of the papillae, a tongue that looks white could be a sign of an infection. A common fungal infection called “thrush” can cause a whitish appearance on the tongue. Using antibiotics to treat bacterial infections could increase the risks of developing thrush, too.
Another condition that gives the tongue a white appearance is leukoplakia. This condition is often benign but it can be an early symptom of oral cancer. Leukoplakia is characterized by having irregular and rough white patches along the tongue and other soft tissue. While the cause of benign leukoplakia is unknown, those who smoke have a higher incidence for developing this condition.
If you have questions about your oral health, including the health of soft tissue, call Kozlow & Rowell Dentistry to schedule a checkup with our team.